The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/26/12 at 12:43 PM ET
Updated 3x at 5:48 PM: As the Red Wings do their best to sell their “program” to potential unrestricted free agent targets, Wings GM Ken Holland may have summarized his team’s decision-making processes best in a conversation with ESPN’s Craig Custance (subscriber-only, sorry):
“It’s all about planning,” Holland said. “Planning is the most important thing so that when it comes time to make decisions, you make them uninhibited.”
There’s no doubt the Red Wings will make a big push on July 1 for Parise and Suter. They’re definitely in pursuit of college free agent defenseman Justin Schultz ,even if there’s indication he’d prefer to play in Canada. They’ll look to add a backup goalie, with Jonas Gustavsson on their radar—if he doesn’t sign with the Winnipeg Jets—and Scott Clemensen another a safe veteran option. Mike Babcock would love more size up front with Montreal’s Travis Moen a candidate to get a look in Detroit should he hit the market. But Holland stresses that free agency can’t be the only solution for the Red Wings.
“We can go out and get some players in free agency but if we don’t have some internal push, those moves in free agency aren’t doing anything anyways,” Holland said. “Brendan Smith needs to make our team. We’re hoping there’s a push from [Gustav] Nyquist or [Tomas] Tatar, [Cory] Emmerton and [Jan] Mursak. Then we’ll look at free agency.”
Justin Schultz can begin to field offers, and he expect the Red Wings to be among the teams that want his services. The undrafted free-agent defenseman, who didn’t sign with Anaheim after being selected by the Ducks in 2008, will meet with his agents in Toronto on Tuesday. The Wings, in need of more defensive help, will make an offer.
“We’ve contacted his agents to express an interest in signing him,” general manager Ken Holland said.
No team will be able to offer any more than any other, as Schultz, 22 on July 6, can only make an entry-level contract (approximately $925,000).
So Schultz will go to the team he feels is the best fit or opportunity, or where he feels most comfortable. The Wings are ready to offer Schultz a roster spot, something he is looking for. Many scouts believe Schultz is ready to assume a top-four position on any team’s defense. He’s mobile, has a good (right-handed) shot, and has good instincts.
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are the two most talked about unrestricted free agents, but the player drawing the most attention from teams is a 21-year-old college kid who has yet to play a professional game.
Most fans might not know the name Justin Schultz, but you can be sure 30 NHL teams have the young man on speed dial. A defenseman drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round in 2007, Schultz has blossomed into what some scouts regard as the best player not currently in the NHL.
“His foundation of skating is excellent,” NHL Network analyst Craig Button told NHL.com. “He has speed, quickness and agility and is able to use his abilities to beat pressure defensively and to move into advantageous positions and be a threat offensively. He can speed up the game or slow it down and is very elusive. He has great awareness and poise with the puck and is able to make plays on the move or when stationary. He doesn’t panic under pressure and is always aware and can adapt to changing circumstances instantly. He has a calming influence when he has the puck and while he can quickly strike, he doesn’t force plays. He’s an excellent passer and he has that panoramic vision that allows him to ‘spread the ice,’ so to speak, and to be able to attack opponents with multiple options. That makes it extremely difficult to shut him down. He has a very good shot, and along with his passing, it keeps goalies and defenders on their heels. He is unique in that he seems to play the game just ahead of the pressure and not in a hurried manner, but with tremendous confidence and an assuredness that is intimidating.
“Overall, he’s a player who is capable of controlling the pace and tempo of play when he has the puck. He’s a player who wants to make a difference in the game. I think he has a chance to be a top-end defenseman.”
A scout from an Eastern Conference team told NHL.com, “If you were to walk into the rink and sit down to watch a game you would notice this guy because he always has the puck and he can make plays.”
Schultz measured just over 6 feet tall and 163 pounds when the Ducks drafted him from the Westside Warriors of the British Columbia Hockey League. After one more season in the BCHL, Schultz enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, where his body grew to match his skills. During the 2011-12 season, his third with the Badgers, he was listed at 6-2 and 185 pounds.
He led all NCAA defensemen in goals (16), points (44) and power-play goals (seven) last season, and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award for the second straight season. He’s also a two-time winner of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s Defensive Player of the Year award, and a two-time member of the WCHA First All-Star Team.
As Kulfan says on Twitter:
Is Justin Schultz really worth all the attention? More people than not seem to say yes.
In terms of perhaps landing another free agent, MLive’s David Drew posits something of a theory regarding Jeff Blashill’s reassignment to the Grand Rapids Griffins (and MLive’s Peter J. Wallner is asking readers to weigh in as to whether the Wings made the right move in swapping out coaches)...
Blashill enters this position with qualifications more-fitting to the job, as he has excelled at developing young talent.
Also, Blashill’s downfall may turn out to be a blessing for himself and the Red Wings. In his one season at Western Michigan [University], he established strong ties and an admiration that still hold true in the halls of Lawson Ice Arena.
Defenseman Mike McKee was a fifth-round pick by the Red Wings and is committed to play at WMU, where NHL-bound defenseman Dan DeKeyser plays.
McKee is a hard-nosed 6-4, 230-pounder that could offer an element Detroit has been missing. He has had NHL scouts drooling the past few years, while DeKeyser has had all 30 NHL general managers wooing him in the last year.
The 2012-13 season will likely be the last in college for DeKeyser and McKee will likely fill his roster spot the following season.
DeKeyser, who will almost certainly have to spend some time at the AHL level before joining an NHL team, has kept a tight lip about what NHL organizations top his list, but he will have to take into consideration Blashill being behind the bench for the Red Wings’ AHL squad.
In out-and-out NHL free agent speculation, the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman offers 30 thoughts that aren’t necessarily related to the Wings, and, via Paul, NHL.com’s Dan Rosen offers some pretty serious questions:
1. Which team will win the Zach Parise sweepstakes, and how much will it cost? If he remains unsigned come noon ET Sunday, Parise will become one of the best players in recent memory to be an unrestricted free agent. He’s 27 years old, the captain of a Stanley Cup Final runner-up, a proven goal scorer, and one of the hardest working players in the League. He has scored at least 30 goals in five of his six full seasons, including a career-high 45 in 2008-09.
Parise has stated his desire to return to New Jersey, and Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello obviously wants him back. But it’s about money and term, and the question is, can the Devils do enough to entice him to sign before he tests his value on the open market? Parise could be in line for one of those long-term mega-deals and Pittsburgh, Detroit, Minnesota and the Rangers appear prepared to make convincing offers.
2. Which team will win the Ryan Suter sweepstakes, and how much will it cost? Similar to Parise, Suter will be the best defensemen to hit the open market on Sunday. He is not ruling out a return to Nashville, but he has told Predators general manager David Poile that he wants to test the market. He should like what he finds because, like Parise, Suter’s very close friend, teams will be lining up to get this 27-year-old mistake-free blueliner under contract for a long time.
The Red Wings seem like an obvious starting point for Suter considering they need a defenseman after the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom. Suter might have to decide if he wants to be the guy that follows the guy. Poile is confident he will be able to retain Suter, who has said he likes Nashville a lot, but he also has to decide if he wants to continue to play in Nashville captain Shea Weber’s shadow or jump out and be a No. 1 guy.
12. Will a team gamble on Alexander Semin and his extraordinary, yet sometimes masked, talent? He’s arguably the most skilled forward who will hit the open market Sunday, but Semin also comes with a lot of baggage, including his penchant for failing to show up in the big games. For example, Semin is averaging 0.42 goals per game in the regular season but 0.29 per game in the postseason. He is averaging 0.87 points per game in the regular season, but 0.67 in the playoffs.
The Capitals paid Semin $7 million on a one-year deal in 2011-12 and he answered with his worst season of his six-year career with 21 goals and 54 points in 77 games. He had 54 points in 2010-11 as well, but at least that was in 65 games. However, there are teams in need of offense (the Rangers?) that might bank on Semin becoming a 40-goal scorer again.
Muskegon’s Justin Abdelkader was close, but he was about 45 minutes too far to the north. Portage’s Scott Parse was just over an hour south. Dozens of other Michiganders have suited up for the Grand Rapids Griffins, but no truly local product has ever skated for the team in its 16-year history.
That looks like it will change in 2012-13, as the Griffins signed East Grand Rapids native and former University of Michigan captain Luke Glendening to a one-year contract on June 19.
“It’s something I’ve always thought about, but I never really thought it would happen,” said Glendening. “I grew up watching these guys. It was something I did with my family on Friday nights.”
The 23-year-old winger was born in Grand Rapids and graduated from East Grand Rapids High School in 2007. Despite being known to fans of the college game as a hockey player, Glendening also played baseball and football in high school and had several offers to play Division II college football. He even captured a state championship on the gridiron as a junior in 2006.
“Everyone says you have to play one sport if you really want to succeed, but I love playing football, baseball and hockey,” Glendening said. “I didn’t want to give up one for the other. I didn’t know what I was going to do, where my opportunities were going to lie in the future.”
• Again, via RWF, MLInsideHockey posted a clip of Pavel Datsyuk’s media availability during the NHL Awards:
• If you’re interested, Mike Commodore’s been updating his Twitter account with news about the “Horcoff-Cleary Invitational,” a golf tournament Shawn Horcoff and Danny Cleary are holding with some of their NHL pals;
• According to the Port Huron Times-Herald’s Paul Costanzo, Mike Emrick, who spends the off-season in Michigan, took part in a luncheon to help benefit the Boy Scouts;
• And finally, this isn’t necessarily charitable, but it’s necessary: Here’s the button. I’m trying to raise funds to defer the cost of staying in Traverse City from July 7-14 so that I can cover the Wings’ summer prospect camp, and I need your help to get there. If you can lend a hand, I’d be grateful:
You’ll have to use my personal email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, to donate, and if you want to aid the cause by some other manner or means, fire me an email at that address or at georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com.
Biggy update: The Fan 590’s Norm Rumack hosted one Jimmy Devellano last night, and while Devellano focused on the Hockey Hall of Fame’s induction class—he believes that Brendan Shanahan, Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure will get in—but he did at least say that the Wings “will be in there bidding” for the “top fellas” available in free agency:
NHL players may have a small leg up on league owners heading into the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement. While team officials are under a gag order with talks set to begin as soon as this week, players are free to speak publicly about the negotiations. Donald Fehr, the executive director of the NHL Players’ Association, has no problem with his membership discussing the issues.
“From my standpoint, I’ve never believed in gag rules,” Fehr said Monday as the union opened its executive board meetings. “I think they’re inconsistent with fundamental notions of free speech. … It won’t be at my recommendation that we get into that.”
While the NHL hasn’t commented on the exact parameters of its gag order, it was clearly in effect early last week after the board of governors meeting wrapped up in Las Vegas. A number of executives politely declined interview requests from reporters. Even Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke — as opinionated as they come in the hockey world — declined to answer a CBA-related question after the draft wrapped up at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon.
“If we talk about collective bargaining matter specifics, it’s a very healthy fine that I can’t afford,” said Burke.
Fehr is puzzled by the league’s policy.
“I would ask why they would do that and then the second question that I would ask is: What is it they’re afraid (owners and team executives) will say?” he said.
Update #2: This is amusing. Here’s Pro Hockey Talk’s Mike Halford’s take On Jiri Hudler’s pluses as an unrestricted free agent:
The skinny: Coming off a tough 2010-11 campaign — you know, the year after he bolted Detroit to join the KHL — Hudler rebounded nicely last season with 25G-25A-50PTS in 81 games, second amongst all Wings in goals.
On the surface, those numbers should make him one of the more highly sought-after UFAs…but there’s a catch. Okay, catches.
The first is that Hudler’s bounce-back season was viewed by some as the byproduct of linemates Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Fulppula, Detroit’s first- and third-leading scorers respectively. What happens if, or when, Hudler skates with inferior talent?
The second? There are questions what Hudler can do beyond put the puck in the net.
“Hudler can score, but what else does he bring?” wrote Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press. “He’s not a great skater. He’s not great in his own zone.”
That said, the Czech native looks to be a fit for any team in need of an offensive punch. Thankfully for him, more than a few teams fit the bill.
Minnesota, Los Angeles, New York Islanders, Florida and Columbus were the five lowest-scoring teams in the NHL last year (the Wild didn’t even have a 25-goal scorer). And regarding the aforementioned reference to Zetterberg/Filppula, it has to be said — when you put Hudler with skill guys, he will produce. Steady offensive output has been his calling card. Teams looking to fill out their top six or add something to the power play will likely kick his tires.
Wondering what Hudler’s market value might be? Do consider that, according to MLive.com, Wings GM Ken Holland wasn’t “apt” to pay him more than Johan Franzen, who has a $3.95 million annual cap hit.
Update #2.5: The Wings know something we do: via RedWingsFeed, the Wings’ website has posted a gallery of Brendan Shanahan‘s tenure with the team. He’s definitely going to be named a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s 2012 induction class today.
Update #2.75: Hoo boy, am I ever making mistakes. I feel shitty and I’m going back to bed. Will hopefully return later this afternoon.
Also: The Hockey News’s Lyle “Spector” Richardson offers a roundup of the recent Parise/Suter rumors.
Update #3: Yes, Brendan Shanahan did not make the Hockey Hall of Fame’s cut. Stunning;
&bulll Speaking of free agents, MLive’s Ansar Khan wonders whether Dustin Penner might be a “fit” in Detroit;
• And SI’s Stu Hackel offered this somewhat worrisome quip from TSN’s Bob McKenzie regarding the NHL and NHLPA’s CBA negotiations:
“I’m not optimistic to be honest with you because I don’t like the dynamic,” McKenzie said Monday (audio). “This is going to be another takeaway negotiation as far as the National Hockey League is concerned. Hockey-related revenue is at 57 percent in the NHL. The NFL and the NBA just did deals that were 50 or less. So you know the NHL is coming for a very similar type of deal to what the other sports have got. So in its very nature, it’s the NHL coming to the Players Association and saying ‘We’re coming for your money, we’re coming for more of your money….That’s the nature of professional sports where the owners keep coming back to the players and grinding them for more….
“The flip side of that dynamic is that you have a new NHLPA boss and his name is Don Fehr. And his reputation in baseball was that nobody even gets a free lunch with Don Fehr. You’ve got to bargain hard for everything that you get. Don Fehr cannot come in here in a takeaway negotiation and be perceived as weak. He was hired specifically to get this Players Association organized because they were in a state of chaos after the dismissal of Paul Kelly. So he’s rebuilding it from the ground up and the last thing he can do is sit there and say, ‘Oh, yeah, you want seven percent more of hockey-related revenue? Sure, no problem, here you go. What else would we like to do? OK, great, we’ll be ready to play in time. Is that OK? Is everything good?’ That’s not the way it’s going to go. The way it’s going to go is, he’s representing the best interests of the Players Association and that if it’s going to be a takeaway negotiation, it’s not going to be an easy takeaway negotiation. So I’m not saying we can’t start on time next fall, I’m saying I’d be surprised if we did.”
• This is intriguing, part 1: the Vancouver Province’s Steve Ewen says the WHL’s Vancouver Giants will not use their second pick in the Canadian Hockey League import draft because they want to keep a European spot open for Marek Tvrdon:
Vancouver is also listed as having the 104th pick, but Bonner says they won’t be using it because they expect Slovak winger Marek Tvrdon to return. Tvrdon, 19, had 31 goals and 74 points in 60 regular season games last season. He was a fourth-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2011 and word is that he’s close to signing a deal with the team.
• And I’ll post the interview if the NHL’s website does, but NHL Home Ice’s Josh Rimer spoke to Zach Parise today, and here’s what Parise had to say:
Parise on @NHLHomeIce “Met with my agent and we’re going to continue today. Still talking to Lou & were going to try & get that worked out.”
More Parise: “if it does get to July 1st it’s going to be a bit overwhelming but my agent is doing a good job preparing me for that day.”
Zach Parise told me if he becomes an UFA on Sunday it doesn’t mean he’s ruled out staying with the Devils.
Parise said if he gets to Sunday, Devils aren’t out: “Not at all. I know a lot of people will think that. That’s far from the case.”
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.